GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

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Science Times tackles the complex Yellowstone wolf scene

Categories: On the Web, Science, Wildlife
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Brad Bulin wolf pelt 2006 In this Tuesday’s “Science Times” section of the New York Times, freelance science writer Jim Robbins explains the push-pull between the lives of Yellowstone’s wolf packs (and the scientists who study them) and the needs and requirements of hunters and ranchers in the three surrounding states.

Since 2011 Montana and Idaho have been conducting managed wolf hunts, but in Wyoming a U.S. Court of Appeals has only this March approved a wolf-hunting plan that is deemed not to endanger the survival of the species in that state.

All the controversy about wolves stems from the 1995 and ’96 introduction of gray wolves (Canis lupus irremotus) into the park (and also into Idaho) from Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Their population soared within a few years to around 150 wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and scientists like Dr. Douglas Smith found, as quoted by Robbins, that “Yellowstone is the best place in the world to view wolves”—and to study them. This is especially true because the Yellowstone wolves do not fear the thousands of eager visitors who flock there—and incidentally add money to the regional economy. The wolves are thus quite readily visible.

In the years after the introduction of wolves, neighboring ranchers were understandably distressed. Some of their cattle, sheep, and even dogs were killed; before wolf hunting was authorized some ranchers were reimbursed by nonprofit organizations for their losses. It is hoped that protection within the park, combined with limited hunting outside its borders, will provide the needed balance and keep the population of Yellowstone’s wolves to approximately one hundred, as has happened in the last few years.

Robbins tells us much more about the results of research done by Smith and his colleagues. Longevity and social hierarchy within the packs are now better understood, and observation has revealed that wise older wolves serve an important role. Dr. Smith believes that packs are matrilineal. “Males come and go . . . but Gramma, Mom, and the daughter are the ones that stick around.” Here is a link to the whole article, “The New Threat to Wolves in and around Yellowstone.”

For some earlier blog posts about wolves here at YellowstoneTreasures.com, just enter “wolves” in the search bar.

Photo is of Yellowstone Forever Institute instructor Brad Bulin showing a wolf pelt, winter 2006. Photo by Janet Chapple.

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News about Yellowstone opening weekend

Categories: News, On the Web, Science, Trip planning
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I.
Today is the first day you can drive into the park from the North or East Entrance. What’s more, those of us stuck at home can now get predictions of the daytime eruptions of Old Faithful Geyser on the NPS website.

But, if you are anything like me, you are mostly celebrating that the time for your summer trip to this wonderful park is drawing nearer. Just one thing that may give us pause as we contemplate the sights we are anticipating seeing: the crowds are likely to be amazingly large.

Here are links to a University of Montana report (2.7 MB pdf file) on 2016 crowding in that state’s two national parks and a shorter summary of the report, emphasizing Yellowstone, by Sean Reichard of YellowstoneInsider.com.

II.
If you should happen to be one of the people driving into Yellowstone this weekend, you may want to take part in tomorrow’s Earth Day Walk for Science at Old Faithful. This echoes the Washington, DC, Walk for Science. As an ever-curious non-scientist, if I lived anywhere near the park, I would certainly want to participate in that.

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Trains to Yellowstone? Oh, for the days . . .

Categories: History, Transportation
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I just answered an amazing question on quora.com: “What are the dangers of taking a train to Yellowstone?”

To my mind this is a strange question, but perhaps the person asking it does not know where trains do and do not run in the U.S.

It would be great if there were still trains to one or more of the entrances to the park. However, the last passenger train, the Northern Pacific, to terminate at Gardiner, Montana (the North Entrance) arrived with a passel of Girls Scouts in 1955, and one could only get as far as Livingston on a train up to 1979. The other railroads that took passengers near the park had stopped running trains to the vicinity of Yellowstone even before that.

Your present options are taking a tour bus, flying to one of the gateway towns that has an airport and renting a car, or driving in your own car, which people do from every state in the Union.

Personally, I would think it high time that railroads reconsider the possibility of building tracks back to Gardiner, Cody, and/or West Yellowstone. The National Park Service should then set up shuttle buses to all the major points of interest—if only there were money for such a dream to come true any time soon. . . .

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March 31st, the birthday of a Welsh painter of Yellowstone scenes

Categories: History, Through Early Yellowstone
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My iPhone shot shows a page from the August 11, 1888 Graphic. You see three scenes engraved from photographs: Livingston, Montana; Pulpit Terrace at Mammoth; and the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. One engraving is from a pencil sketch and two from watercolors: Bath Spring, Orange Spring Mound, and the interior of Devil’s Kitchen.

Today is the one-hundred-seventy-eighth birthday of Thomas Henry Thomas, the author and artist featured at the center of my 19th century collection, Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis.

In 1884, you could travel around the new national park either by horseback or by horse-drawn coach. Thomas chose to ride. He wrote to a friend in his native Wales that he painted “quite half, if not more” of his watercolor sketches from “the logger-head of the Mexican saddle of my Cayuse.” In Through Early Yellowstone you can see 26 of his watercolors and one pencil sketch, none of which have ever been seen outside of Wales.

Born in 1839 in Pontypool, Wales, Thomas studied art at the British Royal Academy and also in France and Italy. His online biography does not tell us where he learned to write with his special combination of erudition, grace, and humor.

He spent most of his life in Cardiff, Wales, where he pursued many interests besides art, including archaeology, geology, and Welsh folklore. He served as artist to the London Graphic, a large-format publication with 16- by 12-inch pages. It took four years for the Graphic to turn some of Thomas’s Yellowstone watercolors and collected photographs into engravings. The first page of one of his two articles for the magazine is shown above.

Before Thomas died in his mid seventies in 1915, he bequeathed more than one thousand prints, drawings, and watercolors to the National Museum of Wales (Amgueddfa Cymru in Welsh), of which he was a founding father.

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Good news, bad news about visitors to Yellowstone

Categories: News, Transportation
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fox north entrance Yellowstone

This fox was spotted tracking a snowshoe hare from atop the Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance earlier this month.

Let’s take a breather from the national news scene to look at the amazing popularity of Yellowstone Park in 2016. The National Park Service office has recently announced record visitation for last year: 4,257,177 visitors came through the gates, up nearly 4 percent over last year’s record. Their January 17th press release attributes much of this huge influx to the number of commercial tour buses—12,778 last year. It’s wonderful to know that people from all over the world are able to travel and enjoy Yellowstone’s wonders, but limits on numbers or timing of visits probably need to be set up to conserve natural resources and keep the park beautiful.

Since the NPS is obliged by law to preserve the parks “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”—as well as to conserve their natural resources—officials are pondering ways to carry out these sometimes opposing obligations. Way back in May of 2011, I developed a plan for a shuttle system on the west side of the park. Unlike a park such as Zion, which essentially has one central road, the figure-eight system of park roads in Yellowstone does not lend itself well to shuttles, but having only the most-traveled west side accessible by shuttle and creating incentives to encourage able-bodied visitors to use them would help the congestion.

As someone who has enjoyed the park for over three-quarters of a century, I don’t want us to love it to death!

—Janet

Photo credit: Yellowstone Forever, @ynpforever Twitter feed, January 6, 2017

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Montana Book Festival news

Categories: News, Through Early Yellowstone
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Beth at Montana book fair booth On September 24, National Public Lands Day, I hope you had the chance to get out and enjoy one of our beautiful U.S. national parks or monuments. I spent all that Saturday at the book fair of the 2016 Montana Book Festival in the heart of Missoula. Thanks to festival director Rachel Mindell and her band of hard-working volunteers, people had the chance to hear author talks and peruse new books with Montana-based authors or themes. While the book fair was free and open to the public, many participants bought a festival button so they could attend the various events. Some people stopped by the table to reminisce about Yellowstone Park, take a free Yellowstone Treasures postcard or Through Early Yellowstone bookmark, or buy a book. I’ll be taking the show on the road again for Wordstock in Portland, Oregon on November 5th–maybe I’ll see you there!

Fortunately I was able to combine a fun and research-filled road trip to Yellowstone with this book festival. I drove from Seattle with my son on September 18th, spent a mere four days in the park, and we drove back via Missoula. Author Janet and I will be sharing some stories and pictures from our trips over the next few weeks, as well as adding videos to our YouTube channel. Today I added a video called “Fan Creek 360 degree view.”

–Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

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Someone on the website Quora just asked about visiting Yellowstone in October, so here’s what I came up with while surfing the National Park Service website for Yellowstone:

Facilities open in October are:
Lake Hotel and Cabins to Oct. 9
Mammoth Hotel and Cabins to Oct. 10
Old Faithful: Snow Lodge and Cabins to Oct. 16; Inn to Oct. 9; Lodge and Cabins to Oct. 5

All campgrounds close in September, except the one at Mammoth Hot Springs, which is open all year.
Almost all roads are open until November 7; Dunraven Pass and Beartooth Pass close on October 11.

Since the weather always turns cold and snowy more and more during October, visitors need to be prepared to dress warmly and could need snow tires in some areas. All thermal areas and most wildlife can be seen (bears are just beginning to think about hibernating), but visitor center hours are limited, some dining facilities are closed, and ranger programs have already ceased in September.

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Over four million visitors enjoyed Yellowstone in 2015!

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The National Park Service has announced that Yellowstone Park has just had another record year. Nearly 600,000 more people passed through the park’s five entrances in 2015 than in 2014, a total of 4,097,210.

As always, the West Entrance was the most popular, and more people visited in July than in any other month, with August and June just behind in numbers.

The NPS attributes this year’s popularity to lower gas prices, stepped-up marketing by Montana and Wyoming tourist bureaus, and the NPS’s own “Find Your Park” program. In addition, beginning last year, to encourage visitation, all families that have a fourth grade student may enter any national park without paying an entrance fee.

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Record Yellowstone visitation achieved

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In case you haven’t heard, a record number of people visited Yellowstone this October—in fact, 29% more than the previous October record. Also, total visitation so far this year has already topped all records, exceeding the four million mark.

This may be due to unseasonably warm weather, lower gas prices, or simply a relatively upbeat economy. Whatever the reason, Granite Peak Publications likes to think we might have played a small part in informing lots of potential visitors of the unique wonders in store for them when they visit!

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Those noisy contraptions can now enter Yellowstone Park!

Categories: History, Transportation
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It’s August 1, 1915.
“Hooray! Today we can finally drive our new automobile into Yellowstone National Park.” Something like this must have been shouted between the open-topped cars lined up to pass through the North Entrance Arch on the first day it was legal to “motor” through the park. [Turns out we showed you that arch in our July 28th post.]

It’s true that a man named Henry G. Merry from nearby Horr, Montana had decided thirteen years before, in 1902, to “pilot the car [a Winton] to the fort and talk things over with the commandant,” according to Merry’s son’s account many years later. Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 10.40.57 AM
You see, the Secretary of the Interior and superintendent Colonel John Pitcher had agreed that year that automobiles must be banned from the park due to the terrible condition of the roads and the danger of frightening the horses. But Merry went anyway—and was told he was under arrest and would have to pay a penalty. However, according to son Edward T. Merry: “When my father asked what the penalty would be, the officer very seriously replied, ‘You will have to take me for a ride in this contraption.’” But soon Merry was ushered out with a warning never to try it again.

Officials knew they would eventually have to improve the roads enough for cars to use them, and eventually this was done. Exactly one hundred years ago today the new era began. Fifty Fords, Buicks, Wintons, Haynes, and others entered the park. Within a year it was obvious that horses and autos were incompatible on the bumpy, narrow roads, and of course, the horses lost the contest.

[My source for this story was The Yellowstone Story, Volume II, by Aubrey L. Haines, pages 264 to 269. The late 1890s Winton touring car is courtesy of Wikipedia commons.]

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